After three decades working in the public sector, I am no stranger to deadlines.
Frankly, I don’t have a problem with them. If a colleague, a client or an executive needs quick information to enable them to take action, I am more than happy to make that happen.
I don’t know who hit the fast forward button in late 2012, but it seems that around that time deliverables seemed to increase in quantity and deadlines seemed to get progressively shorter.
I tried to adapt as best as I could and along the way, I noticed a contrast in how I was able to take some deadlines in stride while others had hair-raising, stress-provoking, anxiety-inducing effects.
For example, preparing briefing notes and status updates didn’t scare me. If I was actively involved in a file, describing its background, evolution and next steps seemed to come pretty naturally. To me, those were low-stress, easy deadlines to meet.
For the most part, solving client problems was also a straightforward process for me, a lot like solving math problems in school. I was pretty comfortable with those deadlines as well.
But surprisingly, it was the written assignments that were more of a wild card.
If a request was for something short, concise and to the point, I could usually pull that together in good time, no problem there. Continue reading
Filed under stories, Writing
Over the span of my career, I took great joy in preparing drafts of memos, briefing notes and all kinds of correspondence for my management team. Naturally, I learned a lot along the way and I was more than happy to pass on to the advice to the newest generation when it was my turn to coach them.
In the early days, one comment that came back a few times was the editing note, “in full first”.
By saying that, my director was suggesting that I should write out an acronym in full the first time it appeared in the document and then to include its acronym version in parentheses. Once that is clarified to the reader, the writer can then feel free to use the acronym in its shortened form throughout the rest of the document.
What sage advice that was! To this day, I really appreciate the time, effort and patience that this busy executive took in tutoring me on the importance of spelling out an acronym.
She explained that an acronym that might be commonly used by my peers and myself might not be evident to someone on another team, someone who isn’t involved in the technical aspects of the work, or someone outside of our organization. Continue reading
A few years back, I wrote a blog post called “My Writer’s Uniform” in which I speculated on what I might be wearing in retirement when I would be free from office dress codes and pursuing my life’s purpose in writing. Of course, the pandemic was nowhere on our radar at that time.
In 2020, when we started working from home due to the pandemic, the line between home life and work life quickly blurred. That being the case, I made a point of putting on jeans during working hours. When I was off the clock, I could relax and cozy up in my comfortable sweat pants and sweat shirts. In my mind, this helped with the boundary setting between work and home.
In 2021 when I retired, it came as no surprise that the sweats became the default outfit. After 33 years of getting dressed for work, I appreciated the break from the pressure of putting on the office “armour.” However, when I was making public appearances like in-person appointments or running errands, I was more than happy to build a comfortable outfit around my favourite jeans.
But it was early in 2022, when I knew it was time to put my nose to the grindstone and answer life’s calling in writing that the wardrobe question came up again. With this next phase in life just beginning, I could not imagine spending the next 30, 40 or 50 years in sweat pants. There had to be a happy medium.
As I was waking up one morning, I looked over at the sweat pant and sweat shirt ensemble I had hung on the door handle in preparation for that day. I asked myself, “Does this outfit really make me feel more creative?” Continue reading
Throughout my public sector career, writing was a constant. In my recent transition to retirement, I was so grateful to discover the portability of the writing skills that I had acquired along the way in helping me pursue my dream of creative writing.
I always enjoyed the process: A manager would give me the broad parameters of what they wanted to say in a written product and then would send me on my way to write the first draft. The next meeting usually involved reviewing the draft together and exchanging ideas on possible improvements. As we approached the final version, we fine-tuned the product together, ensuring that it met its intended purpose.
One of the comments that often challenged me along the way was the question, “Can we go deeper with this point?”
From my earliest days, I knew that the question could mean many different things and could lead down many different paths.
I recall it was always a delicate balance, not just adding depth, but value-added depth, propelling an idea forward without getting into the weeds. It was about adding quality without adding bulk.
That challenge made writing for the business world interesting and fun for me. When a document reached final approval, I was always left with a huge sense of satisfaction that I got the balance right. That joy was one of the signs to me that writing was my calling and life’s purpose. Continue reading
Recently, someone asked me if I ever have a day when I don’t feel like writing. The answer is absolutely yes.
Even though writing is my reason for jumping out of bed in the morning, it is possible to have an off-day.
To put things in context, I’ve known for at least fifteen years that writing was my calling. Writing is one of the activities that I can count on that gives me energy rather than depletes it. Writing relaxes me. Writing makes me feel whole. Writing makes me feel like I am connected (and connecting) to something greater.
When I create something that has never been written before, I get a sensation that feels like a runner’s high. Writing gives me a sense of euphoria. This is what keeps me going.
Also, I am very fortunate that in the back of my mind, ideas are constantly churning, blog themes are constantly being pitched and my fictional works are evolving and maturing.
For these reasons, I never lose interest.
But do I ever wake up some mornings and not want to write? Sure, but I don’t question it. Even the most passionate of writers can have an off day. Continue reading
Filed under Lists, Writing
When looking back over course of my journey as a writer, I find it interesting to note what has been my preferred time of day (or my “peak” time, if you prefer) for writing.
The fact that it has changed over the years as a result of life’s circumstances demonstrates to me that a peak time does not have to be a set time that will never change. The fact that the peak time can differ from one writer to another also proves that there is no right or wrong answer.
I think that the awareness of one’s peak time for writing is a huge asset, which allows one to capitalize upon that best time, to protect it and to schedule around it, whenever possible.
Back in my university years, my classes took place at pretty much any time of day from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. When you also add to the equation a part-time job that filled gaps between classes in addition to time for a social life, my sacred time for writing had to be late in the evening.
With my day fully behind me, I could feel a sense of calm and stillness. With the knowledge that my obligations were met and I wasn’t likely going to face any interruptions, I could easily get in the zone, whether for writing reports, essays, or the poetry I wrote on the side. The ideas and the words to convey them would come to me quite easily until about 1:00 a.m. Continue reading
I had been planning for it and talking about it long enough, it was time to roll my sleeves up and get to work on my first script.
The conditions were right:
– retired and having time on my hands,
– the right working environment (my studio),
– the right background music, and
– a number of completed blog posts, ready for posting, which frees my mind for other projects.
Whether you want to call it a New Year’s resolution or just simply a writing goal that happened to coincide with the New Year, my plan was to spend January in preparation mode for screenwriting.
Over the month, I absorbed training material like a sponge. I devoured every article, tweet and video I could find on the theme of screenwriting. Meanwhile, I jotted down several ideas for the outline for my first story. I also started the background research needed to fill in some of my knowledge gaps about my subject. It was a very productive month.
Then in February, it was time to start fleshing out the story. Given the amount of material that I could see flowing organically from my story, I set a target of eight episodes of roughly 40 minutes each.
I wouldn’t even rule out the idea of overwriting, creating more material than needed, and then trim back to what I think are the strongest story lines and subplots.
Does this project sound ambitious? It sure is! Continue reading
You would think that given the almost perfect conditions I have set for myself for the purpose of writing, my writing sessions must be fruitful and uninterrupted.
First, I retired from a very busy career of 33 years, which has freed up several hours per day.
… I have time!
Also, following my retirement, I have had several months to relax, catch my breath and to recharge my batteries.
… I have energy!
Given our relocation to a rural property, I can feel my mind, body and soul slowing down with every breath. The profound calm and serenity of this great location allow my spirit to disconnect from the distractions that were always present when living and working in the city.
… I have peace and stillness!
The icing on the cake is that I have a comfortable studio in our home where I have the right ambiance and all of the tools I need to make my writing dreams come true.
… I have so much for which to be grateful!
But despite the best possible working conditions to keep me focused and on track, I admit that one of the challenges that still lurks in the background is my personal fight with energy vampires. Continue reading
On the approach to retirement, when I was asked what my future plans were, without really thinking about it, I always answered “writing”.
For as long as I can remember, with every passing year, I became increasingly aware that writing was my life’s purpose.
I was the kid whose bedroom was referred to as a “firetrap” due to the abundance of paper “masterpieces” scattered everywhere. I was the budding (but bad) poet in university. I was also the employee who raised his hand when management was looking for volunteers for challenging writing assignments.
Over the course of producing and editing thousands of pages of material for different executives and for different target audiences, I always felt more energized when completing writing assignments than with any other tasks. To me, that was a clear sign.
But it was only recently, during a drive to the city, that I realized that I might not have accurately articulated my retirement plans. Someone on the radio mentioned the word “storyteller”. This was a mind blowing moment for me, as it offered an important distinction I was missing.
In retirement, the suggestion comes up from time to time that if I love writing so much, why don’t I offer my services as a writer, either as a consultant or for community work. When that happens, in my head, I hear tires screeching to a sudden stop. Why is that? Continue reading
I have always envied artists when they made reference to their “studio”.
When a recording artist referred to “time in the studio”, it always inspired me as that special place where the magic of creativity happened. It was the incubator where ideas were hatched and where new sounds were created. It was the place where the collective creativity of songwriters, producers, engineers, musicians and singers culminated in the birth of new musical material.
Similarly, when seeing visual artists working in their studio, it struck me as a sacred place that gave them a chance to play, to experiment and to work in their chosen medium, to translate vision, imagination and creativity into physical form.
It didn’t matter whether actors, photographers or fashion designers mentioned “studio”, the word itself was to me like an incantation invoking the spirit of the creative masters of the centuries. The term “studio” always gave me palpitations.
But I have often asked myself, “Do writers have studios too?”
Why shouldn’t they?
While on the one hand, I could refer to my writing room as an “office”, I just concluded a 33 year administrative career, working in offices. To me, the term office doesn’t necessarily associate itself to a space for deep creativity, but that’s just me and my baggage talking. Continue reading
Filed under stories, Writing